By LE Desk

New Delhi, March 15: Vaccine makers Serum Institute of India (SII) and Bharat Biotech on Monday moved the Supreme Court seeking to restrain the high courts from entertaining petitions related to Covid-19 vaccinations and want the apex court itself to deal with the issue. 

The two companies, which have developed and are manufacturing Covid vaccines in India, have also sought transfer of a case pending before the Delhi High Court to the apex court, the Financial Express reported.

The companies want that the other HCs should not entertain petitions on issues related to the Covid shots as vaccination of members of the judicial and legal fraternities is a “pan-India and not limited to Delhi district alone”. Thus, they claim, it was absolutely necessary that the SC alone should have judicial intervention and not the HCs in their respective jurisdictions, as it would otherwise create confusion in the process.

A bench led by Chief Justice SA Bobde posted the transfer pleas for hearing on Thursday along with another PIL seeking to prioritise judges and lawyers for the Covid doses.

“The entire vaccination drive is being carried out under the strict supervision and direction of the Government of India, which, in turn, is acting upon the expert recommendations by the leading medical professionals… It is submitted that any subversion of the usage of vaccines as opposed to the plans rolled out by the government would hamper the overall progress of the aim of having a Covid-free nation,” Bharat Biotech stated in its intervention application.

Senior counsel Harish Salve appeared on behalf of Serum Institute of India and senior counsel Mukul Rohtagi was representing Bharat Biotech. They told the SC that “it’s a large issue and needs to be decided once and for all by your lordships.”

The Delhi High Court, had earlier this month, registered a suo motu PIL based on a letter by the Bar Council of Delhi and had directed SII and Bharat Biotech to disclose their capacities to manufacture Covaxin and Covishield vaccines. The HC while asking the Centre to explain the rationale behind keeping strict control over class of persons who can be vaccinated against Covid-19 currently also said the two vaccine manufacturers had more capacity to provide vaccines, but it seemed that they were not exploiting it fully.

“We are not utilising it fully. We are either donating it to foreign countries or selling it to foreign countries and are not vaccinating our own people. So there has to be that sense of responsibility and urgency,” the HC bench said.

Meanwhile, the Centre on Monday opposed the petition filed by one Arvind Singh, seeking priority in vaccination for judges, court staff, lawyers and their employees, saying it cannot prioritise based on profession and thus can’t treat judges, lawyers and court staff as frontline workers. It will be discriminatory towards people of other professions to give such a preference to those related to the legal fraternity, it said.

“It may not be desirable to create a separate class consisting of lawyers and others below 45 years of age discriminating persons engaged in other trade, profession or business and working under similar geographic conditions and circumstances,” the government said in its affidavit.

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